Shadow of Night
Grade : C

When I read A Discovery of Witches I was enamored with the characters and conflict. Imagine my disappointment though when the second novel in the All Souls trilogy turned out to be dull as dirt for the most part and left me with far more questions than answers.

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Shadow of Night picks up exactly where the previous novel ended. Witch Diana Bishop, spellbound as a child by her parents, is just now coming into her powers. Diana has ninety-nine problems, not the least of which is the fact that she’s in love with vampire Matthew Clairmont, which is taboo under the regulations of The Congregation, the governing body for all supernatural creatures. If that wasn’t enough to get them pursued by their supernatural peers, the fact that Diana managed to unlock an enchanted ancient manuscript named Ashmole 782, rumored to contain the secrets of the origins of all supernatural creatures, would be. Compounding our witchy heroine’s issues, she has no clue how to be a witch. Having been spellbound at such a young age, even basic spells elude her and her magic seems to sputter and flare to life without her control.

Since Diana is virtually without powers and Ashmole 782 has returned to its previous locked down, unreadable state, Matthew and Diana make the decision to travel back in time to 1590, where they hope to find a witch who may teach Diana about her powers and find the manuscript that everyone, be they vampire, witch, or daemon, wants to possess. Diana works her mojo and she and Matthew land on cue in Elizabethan England, where Matthew is a spy for the queen, has a circle of renowned friends and associates, and has enemies aplenty. Adding to the danger, witches are being hunted and burned so they cannot advertise about town that they need one to give Diana witchy pointers. After one disastrous encounter, the couple decides to travel to Sept-Tours, Matthew’s family estate, to lie low and enlist the help and protection of Matthew’s father Philippe. Philippe is understandably hesitant to accept Diana as Matthew’s mate since vampires and witches do not mingle, but he comes to accept their pairing and eventually welcomes Diana to the family.

After yet another disaster with a local witch, Matthew and Diana leave Sept-Tours for London hoping to escape the rumors surrounding Diana and find a witch powerful enough to take her in hand. Complications abound however as her alliance with a vampire inspires instant distrust among her fellow witches. But the most powerful witch among them has been anticipating her arrival.

Honestly, the first half of the book was a snoozefest for me. The momentum of the story gets lost in the details that are mired in historical minutiae, which creates a disjointed reading experience. The action does not pick up significantly until well into Matthew and Diana’s sojourn to London. Once Diana begins to learn about her abilities, the real story commences and moves forward at a suitable pace. I found the second half of the book difficult to put down, in sharp contrast to the beginning which felt like traipsing through mud.

When Diana and Matthew first arrive at the Old Lodge, Diana is warned by Matthew’s friends that while in the past Matthew will become a different man than the one she knows and loves. This turned out to be excellent foresight on their parts as Matthew morphed into a quite different person than the Matthew I knew and loved. As the reader learns more about his past and his relationship with his father, understandably, facing those events at Sept-Tours has an impact on him. But at one point in my notes I refer to Matthew as a “jealous, possessive [bad word].” He’s definitely not the Matthew I was expecting based on the previous book.

Diana, though, stays consistent and this is certainly her journey. Having little knowledge of witchcraft has left her at a distinct disadvantage in a world populated by supernaturals. It was a pleasure experiencing her growth and increasing knowledge of her abilities. The addition of her familiar was a particularly fun element to the plot and I looked forward to each appearance of her.

The true strength of the novel is the author’s voice, which is strong and certain. The imagery is vivid, particularly in reference to the alchemical texts Matthew and Diana find. At times the writing and level of historical detail reminded me of Gabaldon’s Outlander and I truly felt like I was in sixteenth century England.

At 584 pages, this book is a saga. I trudged through the first 300 or so pages then finished the remainder at breakneck speed. The mystery of Ashmole 782 gets completely lost within the first part, but once the quest begins for the manuscript things move along nicely. A word of caution for potential readers though: This is most definitely not a standalone. Without the background of A Discovery of Witches the storyline would make far less sense and the first half of the book might cause the reader to expire of boredom with its passages devoted to the mechanics of Elizabethan-era undergarments. Though the ending left me with a sense of melancholy as Matthew and Diana left their friends and family in the past, I am glad I continued their journey and will read the conclusion once it is released.

Reviewed by Heather Stanton

Grade: C

Book Type: Paranormal Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : September 19, 2013

Publication Date: 2013/06

Review Tags: 1500s Elizabethan

Recent Comments …

  1. This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…

Heather Stanton

I read romance of any sub-genre, but particularly love contemporaries. Well-written stories of any variety interest me though and I'm always on the hunt for my next favorite book. I love smart-mouthed heroines and tortured heroes, unusual time periods and just about anything medieval. On a personal note, I'm a political junkie, Cushing's Disease survivor, mom to 11 rescued dogs and too many cats to actually count.
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